Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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September 19th, 2013

School Taxes Keep Rising

Throughout Sullivan County everyone is talking about their school tax bills and how much they are continually going up.

People are questioning their local educational system and if our taxes dollars are being spent properly to educate our youth.

We continually hear how the state is giving local school districts monies from the proceeds of lotteries, but are they?

Now we are told if approved, the resort destination proposition will supplement educational costs in a big way.

Although Sullivan County schools generally pass the grade, some have better reputations than others.

We need to do more to uniformly educate our youth, consolidate purchases, and find avenues to cut cost. Often our tax dollars go more towards administrative salaries, than to educate our youth.

There is something very wrong when our school districts are shelling out an average of $130,000 per year to pay superintendents and other administrators to run schools, while our teachers, elected officials, and other governmental bureaucrats earn salaries way under $100,000 per year.

There is something very wrong when it depends where you live in Sullivan County what the class size, standards, or curriculum will entail.

Each School District within Sullivan County has its own method of taxation. And, they are all run by their own elected school board.

Our school boards are responsible for hiring their superintendents, administrators, and budgeting items. The time has come for us to take an honest look at the educational system in Sullivan County. Perhaps we need to have a centralized Board of Education which would cut administrative costs, and spend more monies on properly educating our students.

There would be across the board curriculum and standards for all of our public schools in Sullivan County. Consolidation of purchasing and contractor services could also save taxpayers huge amounts of monies.

Although our County Legislators and other elected officials can take positions on our public schools in Sullivan County, they really have little say. The power lies with each local school district.

Our school boards throughout Sullivan County must sit down and discuss alternatives to make our educational system work more effectively and efficiently.

A central Board of Education might be the direction Sullivan County should take.

Perhaps we should elect a countywide superintendent of schools. Or, if we had a full-time elected County Executive, part of the responsibilities could be to oversee a Sullivan County Schools Chancellor and Board of Education.

We must all acknowledge that we need a new and increased direction when it comes to educating our youth. With illegal drug use, gangs, and lack of family structure all too rampant in Sullivan County, our schools unfortunately now have a heavier burden placed on them by society.

We need more after school programs.

Sullivan County Activist Nancy Levine angered over how the Liberty School District conducts business recently shared with me an opinion piece she has written.

Although the article relates to Liberty, I am sure the feelings expressed represent the same feelings of many throughout Sullivan County.

I would like to share Nancy Levine’s Letter with you.

Liberty School Tax Bill
By Nancy Levine

By this time, Liberty residents have received their school tax bill. In August I attended a Liberty school board meeting at which time the board was voting on a 2.65 increase in the tax levy.

I read the following statement: “I have been a Liberty resident for my entire life and I was a teacher in the school district for 33 years.

I know that you have a thankless job and I know that you are here to do the best for our district – however, I feel that our recent administrators have been more concerned with the buildings and grounds than with the children of our district.

I’ve sadly watched Liberty go from being a top school to one in need of many academic improvements while watching the taxes go up and up.

I’ve had enough experience to know that pouring money into buildings has very little to do with teaching children how to read. What has the school done with our tax dollars? We have far too many children in our primary classes.

We only offer one foreign language now. We are not in compliance with state ESL or physical education requirements.

We’ve reduced our funding for accelerated programs. We fail to send children who are failing to trade school soon enough. Our driver’s training program is offered during the summer only, when most teenagers have jobs.

We built a steeplechase for $70,000 that was NEVER used. From what I understand, it was supposed to be used to draw big events to Liberty. What happened?

We put a second computer room in the basement of the elementary school two years ago. That room was then made into a classroom and all the wires taken out.

Now we’re spending several thousands of dollars putting in another computer room a few doors down.

We’re planning to increase the size of the high school to accommodate a new choir room!! Why can’t the choir room at the middle school be used?

I could go on and on.

The point is that past and current administrations are not frugal with our tax dollars.

Seventeen teachers took an incentive and retired this year. Where did the savings from that go?

While Supervisor Charlie Barbuti and the Liberty Town Board are doing all they can to keep tax increases as close to zero percent as possible, the Liberty school board continues to raise taxes.

People are leaving the area so that they can afford to live better and give their children a better education.

I had a former student come to visit this summer. She is married, works in Liberty, has family in Liberty and wanted to live in Liberty.

Unfortunately, she purchased a home in the Town of Thompson because the taxes are several thousand dollars a year less than in Liberty.

I know several young people who want to build homes here, but cannot afford the taxes, business people who would buy property and won’t because of our tax rates, and others who won’t make improvements to their property for the same reason.

I’ve stood before the school board before and begged you not to buy programs that I correctly predicted would end up in the closet in two years.

I’ve been through basal reading programs, McGinnis Hammondsport, whole language, Brenda Weaver, Rigby, Fountais and Pennell, and I’ve watched the Lucy Calkin writing program come and go and come back again.

Yet our graduation rate is in the sixties and you want to put $750,000 in a building fund.

Should we spend money on the safety and security of our kids? That should be first and foremost, but after that, let’s get back to education.

Ancillary programs are nice, and so are beautiful buildings, but they are not improving our education and that is what’s important. Please let’s not lose sight of that.”

Shortly after, by a vote of 5-4 (Cindy Conklin, Andy Kavleski, John Nichols,and Sheila Parks voting NO to raise the tax levy) the board increased the tax levy by 2.65 percent.

And coming soon, a Phase II building project in excess of 25 million dollars! Liberty residents need to get involved and show up at board meetings. It is impossible to make changes without public input.

Nancy Levine
Po Box 52
Swan Lake, New York 12783

Brian McPhillips who is running for Liberty Town Council agreeing with Levine commented,

“Agreed, on a level the county taxes are similar across the townships. The taxable difference lays in the school tax. Per thousand of assessed value Liberty comes in second only to Fallsburg at which we are rated. This year Fallsburg’s rate is $40.69 and Liberty’s is $35.47. The next closest is Sullivan west at $26.95. Now while the dollars seem minimal $5.22 and $8.52 respectively when property assessments are in the $150,000’s and $200’000’s the additional dollars are now substantial and makes it less desirable to build or purchase in the town. Adding to the tax base will lower these costs which is achievable by welcoming “rate able” industry. Cue “vote yes to the proposition”

I guess we can all agree that taxpayers are frustrated over their School Tax bills. So, what are we going to do about it?

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.

3 comments to School Taxes Keep Rising

  • Tom Prendergast

    If you are upset with the 2.1/2 % increase you would be livid if you lived in the town of Tusten (Narrowsburg). My taxes just went up 20+% without any prior notice. In the meantime they put a two million dollar slate roof on the Jeffersonville facility and are putting 1.5 million into an athletic faciltiy in Lake Huntington, town that have seen miniscule increases by comparison. The Jefffersonville facility could have been done with a slate look alike for a percentage of real slate but would not entertain that idea. It is time to stand up, Sullivan County residents and demand a fairer deal.

  • LL

    The problem with school is worst than many believe. I served on a local school board for two terms and many of the decisions made do not benefit our children’s education. I would always say in the board room that our school, regardless of SES, family background or any other issue we tend to blame poor academic success on, can be one of the best schools around. Money or lack of, is NOT the issue. Boards of education DO NOT really know what’s going on in the buildings. It doesn’t make me proud to say that after two terms, I couldn’t continue. It was a losing battle. Our kids, our communities deserve better.


  • fran kurpil

    Bill, I would say that Nancy Levine is more than a Sullivan County Activist. Having been a favorite teacher of my kids in years past, her heart is in our school system and God Bless her efforts and what she has to say about what she feels is happening.
    The average tax-payer doesn’t know the details and inner workings of the school system, so we need people like Mrs. Levine to help with this situation.

    As a Real Estate Broker…..I am more than in tune with how prices of homes have plummeted when people can’t afford to keep up, or choose not to keep up with such outrageous taxes. Why not move somewhere where the taxes won’t bleed your retirement.

    As for people with kids in our schools, they are doubly affected and feeling they are not getting what they are paying for in education. My children and grandchildren have done remarkably well in Liberty Schools and I still have a grand-daughter who is involved and doing very well in the High School with sports, music and academics, but I dare say there are so many kids that are not motivated or don’t have the family structure needed to do well. That is where expert leadership and administration comes in. Thanks again to Nancy Levine.